December 19-20, 2019
Cottonwood Campground, Joshua Tree National Park
Weather: clear, breezy, 50°-35°F (10°-1°C)
Observing Time: 7 pm- 1 am
Bortle Scale: 3
This was the first night using my Starshoot Autoguider in a dark location. I had tested it a few times and learned how to use it at home prior, so I wasn’t totally going in blind.
Cottonwood was understandably crowded given that the December holiday season, and I strategically picked a Thursday night knowing that the next night would be completely swamped with holiday campers. When approached by the park ranger, he could see how set up I was, and he was understanding and let me continue on as long as I wasn’t going to be there overnight.
With the autoguider working, and me seemingly being able to take as long of exposures as I wanted, I took many images, a lot of them I chose not to include in this gallery because they pale in comparison, and I wasn’t too happy with them.
As my nephew loves red supergiants, I took the shot of Betelgeuse for him. This was right around the time when the star was at its dimmest, and puzzling astronomers to what was going on.
The crown jewel of the night was of course taking a picture of the Horsehead. Given the fact that it was still breezy outside, I sat there for 10 minutes straight nervously waiting for the exposure, hoping it was going to work and I wouldn’t get any trails.
When the moment of truth arrived, I’m pretty sure the entire campsite could hear me yell out, “I f***ing got it!”
That image is just one raw exposure… imagine what my shots will look like when I learn to stack and modify the cameras!
After that, shooting M42, M45, M81/82 and NGC 2244 were a breeze. It felt so easy that night that I had to figure out how to pass the time during the exposures!
Why can’t all of my observing nights be this easy?!
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